By Arab News
Islam itself is not the source of terrorism, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday during a speech at the Munich Security Conference where US Vice President Mike Pence was in the audience.
She added that it was crucial to include Muslim countries in the fight against terrorism.
“The joint fight against Islamic terrorism is one area where we have the same interests and we can work together,” Merkel said.
She said Europe’s ties with Russia remained challenging, but it was important to work with Russia in the fight against terrorism.
Merkel, who met with Pence one-on-one following their addresses, acknowledged that Europeans couldn’t fight global issues like extremist terrorism alone, saying “we need the military power of the US.”
She renewed a call for Islamic religious authorities to speak “clear words on the demarcation of peaceful Islam and terrorism in the name of Islam.”
Germany, under increasing pressure by US leaders to increase its military spending, would do “everything possible” to meet a NATO target for spending 2 percent of economic output on defense by 2024, Merkel told the conference.
Pence sought to assure allies that the Trump administration will back NATO and stand with Europe even as it looks for new ways to cooperate with Russia.
Pence warned allies that they must pay their fair share to support NATO, noting that many lack “a clear or credible path” to do so.
On Russia, the US would not relent in pushing it to honor the Minsk cease-fire accords with Ukraine, said Pence.
“The US will continue to hold Russia accountable, even as we search for new common ground, which as you know, President Trump believes can be found,” the vice-president said.
Merkel appealed to the US and others to support and bolster multilateral organizations such as the EU, the UN and NATO, an alliance to which Pence pledged America’s commitment was “unwavering.”
Pence sought immediately to address concerns raised by President Donald Trump’s comments questioning whether NATO was “obsolete.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that in his mind, NATO and the EU defense complement each another. “A strong Europe cannot mean Europe alone, just as I don’t believe ‘America first’ means America alone.”
Russia called for an end to what it said was an outdated world order dominated by the West.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered a diametrically opposed global vision, just hours after Pence vowed to stand with Europe to rein in a resurgent Moscow.
“I hope that (the world) will choose a democratic world order — a post-West one — in which each country is defined by its sovereignty,” said Lavrov.
The time when the West called the shots was over while NATO was a relic of the Cold War, he said.
In its place, Moscow wanted a relationship with Washington that is “pragmatic with mutual respect and acknowledgment of our common responsibility for global stability.”
Hours before Lavrov addressed the conference, Pence told the same forum that the US will stay loyal to its old friends.
“The US is and will always be your greatest ally. Be assured that President Trump and our people are truly devoted to our transatlantic union,” Pence said.